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Antoinette Oglethorpe

Antoinette Oglethorpe Ltd

Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Author specialising in Leadership Development and Career Management

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Leadership is not about what people know or think


Leadership is a huge subject surrounded by numerous theories. A recent search on Amazon revealed 160,194 books that have been written about the subject. That’s a lot of books! And a very, very long leadership development programme if you were to try and include all that they contain. So how do you determine the focus and the content of the programme?

Leadership is not about what people know or think. It is about what they do and how what they do impacts on others. Above all else, effective leadership is about influencing the behaviour of others. Business results, business change and business success all stem from the behaviour of individuals. 

The challenge for any leader is to influence the behaviour of those people who are key to delivering the business results. That might be the behaviour of the people who report directly to him or her. It might be the behaviour of the senior management they work alongside. It might be the behaviour of the board, the Chairman or other stakeholders. Or it might be the behaviour of clients, partners, suppliers or other third parties. The key challenges the leaders I work with have are:

  • Influencing the board/leadership team;
  • Managing the performance of the managers who report to them;
  • Working in partnership/collaboration with other parties; 
  • Resolving conflicts & difficulties between two or more employees in their team;
  • Motivating and developing a team that has been through significant change and uncertainty.

Ultimately the only way leaders can influence others behaviours is through their own behaviour i.e. what they say and what they do. So, while there is a place for leadership theories and indeed the theories of influencing, performance management etc, a truly effective leadership development programme will provide leaders with the practical skills, tools and techniques to help them influence the behaviour of others in the way that is needed to deliver business results.

As a Finance Director said to me recently, "My role is 20% finance and 80% psychology.  Its all about relationships." 

This has been adapted from "Secrets of Successful Leadership Development Programmes: How to Design & Deliver Leadership Development Programmes That Really Make a Difference to the Business" You can download the full report from

4 Responses

  1. Leadership

    You are correct about the confusion surrounding "leadership."

    Most of the managers I work with view it as uber-management; a grab bag of stuff that will make them better managers.

    Most of the senior managers I work with view it as either something they need to promote because everyone else is doing it or a silver bullet for their company’s management ills.

    The best (aka most pragmatic) distinction I’ve heard is from Bob Seldon who said, "you’re a manager when your company says so, you’re a leader when the people you interact with say so."

    Leadership is best defined by outcomes, rather than skill sets.

    — Mark Wayland The Last 3 Feet

  2. Great quote

    Being a true pragmatist I love that quote Mark – another to add to the quote box.  Its a great way to make the point out that you’re only a leader if people follow you.


  3. Confusion About Leadership


    I agree about the influencing aspect of leadership… but that also applies to "management." Try this…

    Substitute "management" for "leadership" or "manager" for "leader" in your article and I’ll bet that the article still holds true.

    The most confusing element about Leadership is that all (most?) of the work has been on people already "in charge." And since most of our large companies still embrace Industrial Revolution thinking when it comes to management it follows that the higher you ascend the company management ladder, the more influence you have, and the greater the likelihood you’ll be perceived as a leader.

    Leaders are simply managers doing a good job.

    When I see "leadership skill" training being given to the "workers" then I’ll take the concept more seriously. At the moment there are too many vested Consultancy and Training interests making too much money to really change that.

    Alfie Kohn (Punished by Rewards) summed this phenomenon up perfectly:
    "There is a time to admire the grace and persuasive power of an influential idea, and a time to fear its hold over us. The time to worry is when the idea is so widely shared that we no longer even notice it; when it is so deeply rooted that it feels to us like plain common sense.
    At the point when objections are not answered any more because they are no longer even raised, we are not in control.
    We do not have the idea . It has us."

    — Mark Wayland The Last 3 Feet

  4. Last Thoughts

    If you’re after a great example of the confusion between leadership and management AND that leadership really only refers to uber-management of people already in-charge, then look no further than a recent advert in Harvard Business blog:

    "Being the Boss: the 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader by Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback
    As the authors reveal in "Being the Boss", becoming an effective manager is a painful, challenging journey."
    "Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership by Linda A. Hill.
    New managers must learn how to lead others rather than do the work themselves, to win trust and respect, to motivate, and to strike the right balance between delegation and control."

    — Mark Wayland The Last 3 Feet

Author Profile Picture
Antoinette Oglethorpe

Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Author specialising in Leadership Development and Career Management

Read more from Antoinette Oglethorpe

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